Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In Heaven the Brits are the Police

The Germans are the mechanics, the Italians the lovers and the French do the cooking. In Hell, the Germans are the police, the Italians are the mechanics, the French the lovers, and the poor old Brits are the cooks…

An oldie, but a goodie. Thing is, at least one small bit isn’t true any more. The food in England was pretty appalling post war, and I remember a trip here in the ‘80s where the fair was only just palatable. Now though, food has moved to the centre of English consciousness. English shops and supermarkets supposedly have the greatest variety and quality in the world. Cooking dominates the telly (well, perhaps next to DIY and Gardening), and even average restaurants are good.

Though you can eat the cuisine of any nation in London, and Chicken Tikka is England’s favourite food, there is a unique style of food here. This holiday we ate English, and boy did we eat well.

Take a cream tea for example. Quaint, even a bit twee, but done right it is heaven. I had quite a few, too many LL kept grumbling. Its just soooo good. First a scone. It’s a humble bun, but done right, freshly baked, is light and scrumpcious. With it you need a really good strawberry jam, must be home made and heavy on the fruit. Then there is the clotted cream. I’ve not seen this in any other place. It’s a cream that’s been allowed to settle and form a crust. Thick and luscious. The scone, jam and cream are a combination that just melts in the mouth.

Or take fish and chips. Out on the South West coast the fish will be fresh. The batter will likely be mixed with a local ale. The chips in the better shops will come from a farmer known to the shop, and may well have been picked from the ground and delvered that morning. Finally, to get the best taste you don’t use oil but beef dripping. (rendered down beef fat). It is an artery clogging meal, to be sure. Yet with salt, vinegar and a home made tartar sauce, yum.

Perhaps a humble Cornish Pastie? By local legend anything can go in a pastie,a nd often did. Supposedly the devil doesn’t visit Cornwall for fear a housewife will chop him up and add him in. The most traditional though is steak, onion and potatoe wrapped up in a lard pastry. Its pretty hard to beat, especially if its warm from the oven.

Or fish pies or meat pies topped with a crisp crust. Or ploughman’s lunches with a hunk of fresh bread, whatever the local cheese or ham is, a pile of salad and a mound of different pickles. Perhaps just a grilled fillet of whatever came off the boat that morning, or a local saltwater crayfish (like lobster, just without the claws), or a mound of muscles steamed with a bit of garlic…

I could go on about the food we ate, but almost without exception, it was good. Better than good often. I think I could be happy in a hell that had Brits doing the cooking…


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